The Mindless Defender of Reason?

cartoon-zombie-scientist copyThere is a reason that the philosopher Rosenberg asserts that he has no mind: He knows that claiming to have one would contradict his atheism.

I find it more than a little ironic that, in the wake of so much insistence that there is no evidence for anything other than the physical, the things making the demands are themselves such evidence.

That is to say, minds.

Science has been unable to explain the mind. Meaning, purpose, subjective impressions, and the like are simply impossible to nail down with the tools of science. Of course, many insist that these are all simply brain states. And, while these things may all be correlated with brain states, there is a very simple reason why neurology (or any other science) isn’t going to explain them fully:

Because science forbids it from doing so.

Many keep making the argument that everything else has been made to submit to the investigation techniques of science, so it is only a matter of time before the mind is quantified and analyzed in the same way. Now, I’m not convinced that the first half of this statement is true. It would be more accurate to say everything else that the naturalist is willing to admit exists has submitted to this technique (or will in the future). But the real problem lies elsewhere.

One of the most useful tricks of science is to ignore anything it can’t quantify. It simply dismisses these things as “subjective”. That is well and good when one is doing science, but to call something subjective is, in part, to call it mental. Science has, in effect, been using the mind as the dumping bin for everything it can’t investigate. And it has been doing this for the last four centuries. It would be too much, I think, to say that the mind is defined in science as “everything science can’t investigate”, but it isn’t so far off the mark, either.

So, to say that the mind will eventually submit to scientific investigation because “everything else” has done so is like saying that, since we got rid of all the dirt in the house by sweeping it under the kitchen rug, we can get rid of the dirt under the kitchen rug in the same way.

This means that science cannot, even in principle, fully explain the mind. It can explain brain states. And test subjects can report to us which mental events are correlated with those brain states. As amazing as that is, it isn’t a scientific explanation of the mind.

But, unless one is willing to agree with Alex Rosenberg that the mind doesn’t exist, and thoughts aren’t about things, this means concluding that naturalism is false.

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39 responses to “The Mindless Defender of Reason?

  • Putting it All Together | Fide Dubitandum

    […] Much, if not all, of our mental lives would be […]

  • Alexander

    Ugh. A lot of poppycock this time. It needs to be pointed out here that, in essence, what you’re really talking about here is dualism vs. non-dualism. You are making conflating the term “mind” with a dualistic concept, and reject the notion “mind” because people aren’t dualists. Let’s dig a bit deeper;

    “Science has been unable to explain the mind.”

    What are you basing that on? I can’t think of anything that has managed to explain the mind better. (Hint: religion doesn’t *explain* the mind at all, it just uses the blanket statement of “god did it”) Or are you simply meaning, “science hasn’t explained *all* of the mind yet”? Give it time.

    “Because science forbids it from doing so.”

    This is outrageously wrong, and shouldn’t be made if you are taking the issues seriously. The common “science” either reflect methodological naturalism, or people being scientists, with communities forming to do so. And even with those constraints there is no “forbid”, especially not in exploring the concept of the mind. Even in the extended argument from evolution (“how can something that evolves for certain conditions be trusted to make conclusions that are counter to that evolution?” ala Plantinga) one cannot claim the community of science to forbid conclusions beyond some formal structure. One consistent thing in science is refinement and rejection of counter-evidence; structure follow what we find to be true, not what we find to be agreeable. (There’s a great example in evolution; even though we know it to be true, we often wish that is wasn’t, because it’s a cruel process)

    “One of the most useful tricks of science is to ignore anything it can’t quantify.”

    Trick? I find it a bit offensive to think that whatever falls into an error category is dubbed a trick by the other side. And it kinda shows your bias, where it perhaps forces you to not quite fully understand what science is, so let’s be a bit clearer about it; science doesn’t quantify, it doesn’t use tricks, it doesn’t lie, it doesn’t folly, it doesn’t make stuff up, it doesn’t assume, it doesn’t pretend. People do.

    So, be honest and state “scientists” instead. It would make your statements not only more palatable for debate, but also contain a smidgen of truth to it.

    “This means that science cannot, even in principle, fully explain the mind.”

    Only a dualist would think that, of which you are one; that is your bias in this debate. As a non-dualist, I can say that your statement is false, and I can say that a dualist making blanket statements on scientific and/or naturalistic principles is, um, a bit brave; Science isn’t defined through principles it itself cannot support, which really is the point here.

    It’s a bit like me defining how you are to interpret the trinity; Not only wrong, but so wrong it defies being taken seriously. If I told you what the holy ghost should mean, would you take that seriously? Probably not, and in the same sense a dualist definition of the mind isn’t going to be taken seriously by science, at least not at this point.

    • Debilis

      Yes, I agree that I’m defending dualism. Though, if we are going to be accurate, I should say up front that I lean toward a hylomorphic dualism, rather than cartesian dualism. But I am not simply conflating the term “mind” with dualism; my statements were a (brief) argument to that end.

      Yes, in that sentence, I am saying that science hasn’t explained the mind yet. I address the “give it time” objection later in the post.

      Science holds to the methodological stipulation of naturalistic explanations. That is to say that any quality of the mind that cannot be modeled mathematically based on physical particles is outside of its purview. To say that science welcomes things beyond a formal structure is to erode the meaning of the term “science”. That is exactly what it does–and it is a good thing. Without the rigidity of its structure, we would not have reason to place such trust in its conclusions.

      Please pardon me regarding the term “trick” it was not meant in a remotely pejorative way. I adore science, and find this part of if to be an incredibly useful stipulation. I only meant that it is a (very useful) methodological stipulation, not a discovered fact of reality.

      But there is much truth in what I say. And I mean “science” not “scientists”. Scientists need not be metaphysical naturalists once they step out of the laboratory. But it is no insult at all to science to say that examining the non-physical is not its job. I’ve always felt that those who seem to think that science does do this are disrespecting the value of what science is and does.

      Yes, only a dualist would think that science cannot, even in principle explain the mind, because that idea is nearly the definition of dualism. My point was not that I wasn’t a dualist, but that dualism logically follows from the realization that certain mental events (such as qualia) are outside science’s range of investigation.

      But science is indeed defined through principles that it cannot itself support; that is no insult whatsoever to science. Defending the philosophical base of science was never its assigned task–and it would only be arguing in a circle to claim that it does support itself.

      My main reaction, however, is not to anything written, but to the fact that my actual argument is not addressed in your response. Anything deemed subjective is indeed ignored by science. In the discussion on naturalism, you’ve insisted that a naturalistic approach doesn’t define certain things. To insist here that there is nothing which science does not investigate seems a direct contradiction.

      This is well supported by the history of science, in fact, when Descartes, Galileo, and Bacon insisted directly that the subjective and the teleological would be set aside for purposes of science (this was the birth of modern science, really).

      And none of this is an insult. To say what science is and does is to respect the thing that it actually is. One of my biggest disagreements with both the creationists and the New Atheists is their unspoken agreement that science is only really interesting if it is telling us whether or not God exists. I have great respect for the study of the physical world, and don’t see why that, in itself, isn’t a great thing.

      • Alexander

        “To say that science welcomes things beyond a formal structure is to erode the meaning of the term “science”.”

        Even in your world of the spiritual, there is probably a formal structure. Are you talking about the constraints of naturalism? Because it sounds like you want to define some part of the mind as not part of the natural world (ie. soul), however then you must also say that the soul (or the super-natural) has no influence on the natural world, which I’m not sure you want to do?

        “examining the non-physical is not its job”

        Not sure where you’re going with this. Science studies non-physical things all the time, like sociology and mathematics.

        “certain mental events (such as qualia) are outside science’s range of investigation”

        Who would agree to that?

        ” In the discussion on naturalism, you’ve insisted that a naturalistic approach doesn’t define certain things.

        That is correct.

        “To insist here that there is nothing which science does not investigate seems a direct contradiction.”

        Why?

        “[for creationists and New Atheists] science is only really interesting if it is telling us whether or not God exists”

        Science certainly back up a lot of the atheist arguments, but claiming science is only interesting if it does is simply not true. Science is interesting because it creates knowledge we can rely on. And knowledge we can rely on is the drive, it’s why we love it, why we like it. If it gave us bad answers, we wouldn’t want to pursue it.

    • Debilis

      Yes, I am claiming that science is limited to methodological naturalism. That is uncontroversial.

      But I’m not trying to define the mind as a soul; I don’t claim that there is a soul (I lean toward hylomorphic dualism, as I said). I’m pointing out that science does not study the subjective. This, too, is uncontroversial.

      And, yes, I am aware of the interaction problem for cartesian dualism (the main reason I tend to reject it). I’m simply pointing out that the mind-body problem is at least as difficult for naturalism. I am far from the only one to point this out.

      Science does not study the non-physical. Sociology is not non-physical. It is the study of human behavior in groups. And mathematics is not science in the relevant sense. It is a separate field of study which makes no use of the experiment-observation technique based on inductive reasoning.

      Nor have I ever heard an atheist complain that we need mathematical evidence for God. Rather, the demands are for evidence from fields physics, cosmology, biology, and the like–which most certainly study strictly physical objects.

      And every expert I’ve read would agree with the idea that qualia are not the kinds of things that are investigated by science. If you know someone who disagrees with it, could you summarize his/her argument? Simply asking “who would agree” does nothing to refute my point.

      ” In the discussion on naturalism, you’ve insisted that a naturalistic approach doesn’t define certain things.
      That is correct.
      “To insist here that there is nothing which science does not investigate seems a direct contradiction.”
      Why?

      Because science presumes methodological naturalism. Anything which is undefined by naturalism, then, cannot be investigated by science (as a thing cannot be investigated until it is defined).

      Does science investigate whether or not there is objective meaning outside human opinion? If so, I’d be interested in seeing the lab report that did the experiment, and reading the journal in which it was published.

      I honestly have no idea which arguments for atheism are backed up by science. But I agree with you that science is interesting for giving us reliable answers. I only wish the creationists and angry internet atheists would see that.

      • Alexander

        “Yes, I am claiming that science is limited to methodological naturalism. That is uncontroversial.”

        No, that’s not what is on the table. First of all, apart from your statement being wrong (there’s other means of science outside of methodological naturalism), what we’re talking about here is your super-natural entity’s ability to reach into the natural world and alter it. And when you alter it, it can be measured. And hence that altering is *not* outside the scope of science, nor methodological naturalism.

        “I don’t claim that there is a soul”

        Really? That’s interesting, to say the least.

        ” science does not study the subjective. This, too, is uncontroversial”

        What? Of course science can study the subjective, we do it all the time in anthropology, sociology and psychology (and others). Are you talking about a specific set of subjective stuff that is outside the constraints of science?

        “I’m simply pointing out that the mind-body problem is at least as difficult for naturalism”

        Not sure what you’re referring to here. It’s trivial to agree that neuroscience is damn hard and complex and might never fully reach its target, but within the bounds of what we currently know we see how it necessarily fully is bound. The more we learn about the innards of the brain, the less we are mystified by what we find. There is far less mystery to the mind problem than there was even a few years ago. With a smidgen of deduction it’s not hard to see knowledge about harder and harder problems appearing in the future. More and more evidence builds towards an understanding of how it works.

        The alternative theory have a bigger problem in no evidence at all for its hypothesis. I don’t see the problem of explaining the mind being at least as difficult, considering we already explain so much more.

        “Science does not study the non-physical”

        Technically, as a naturalist, I can say that all things are indeed physically based, including the mind and the kerfuffle of psychology. However, I think I understand where you’re heading with this, but please see the top of this comment; if the natural is stirred by the super-natural, that is testable (and physical).

        “mathematics is not science in the relevant sense”

        That sounds like a cop out. Hmm.

        “qualia are not the kinds of things that are investigated by science”

        Not sure how into the materia you are on this, but there’s still a raging debate if qualia even exists at all, going back to Hume and then on to Wittgensten (the elder), and now Daniel Dennett, John Wilkins, David Chalmers, Gary Drescher and others. I’m not going to address all their positions, that would be crazy in a comment like this, but suffice to say, ‘qualia’ is disputed at best. Look up “qualia and neuronal oscillation” for where qualia meets hardcore science. Regardless of whatever theory you choose, the underlying neuroscience is, well, science. If the brain can think of it, it involves a state we can scientifically investigate, linking state to words to concepts to abstracts to concretes. None of this lies in some place beyond scientific investigation, even if the words and concepts are hard to grasp and sound floaty, at best.

        “Anything which is undefined by naturalism, then, cannot be investigated by science”

        That’s a very odd thing to hear. The definition of “naturalism” changes when we discover new things. That is the nature of science. I hope you don’t think it’s a stale box we’ve slapped “naturalism” on to settle on some absolute framework for what the cosmos is? Because it isn’t.

        Let me try to explain it differently. What would you call the super-natural if it was discovered and measured by science? A part of nature. See how we’re never going to agree on this part? 🙂 The thing is; science will always modify, edit and re-affirm its boundaries and knowledge based on evidence. It’s the opposite of dogma. Some think this is a bad thing, because some people prefer things to be absolute, however I’m not one of those; I love the fact that science will change its mind based solely on evidence. Science is not “afraid” of finding a god behind nature in that sense; it will not lose its meaning or purpose one little bit, it will point to that god and say that it is responsible for these things in these ways, and get on with it. (Religion, in the opposite scenario, would fold very quickly, I suspect)

        “Does science investigate whether or not there is objective meaning outside human opinion?”

        Your question is nonsensical. Science doesn’t investigate *any* meaning.

        “I agree with you that science is interesting for giving us reliable answers. I only wish the creationists and angry internet atheists would see that”

        Who’s angry? What are they angry about? And what angry atheist doesn’t see this?

    • Debilis

      “There’s other means of science outside of methodological naturalism”
      Which sciences are these?
      And, if this is the case, doesn’t that immediately establish my claim that there is more to reality than just the natural?

      “what we’re talking about here is your super-natural entity’s ability to reach into the natural world and alter it.”
      That’s actually not what the topic was about. It made sense to me to first establish that there is more than the natural before discussing the relationship between the non-natural and the natural.

      “Of course science can study the subjective, we do it all the time in anthropology, sociology and psychology (and others).”
      Those disciplines stick to analyzing objective facts about human beings. None of them study whether or not a particular person or group is “good”. This is because goodness is considered subjective in science, and is therefore not a topic of study.

      “There is far less mystery to the mind problem than there was even a few years ago.”
      Could you point me to the studies that established this?
      To clarify, I completely agree that humans know more about which brain states correlate with which mental events. But we have learned nothing about how the mind ultimately relates to the brain.

      “if the natural is stirred by the super-natural, that is testable (and physical).”
      Then it is not super-natural.
      This comment seems to miss the metaphysical distinction between natural and supernatural. To say that the non-physical can be tested in this way is to assume that the non-physical is just another form of efficient cause; I was referring to teleological cause, which is not testable in the way you mention.
      Or, in less technical terms, this is like saying that Hamlet can “test” for Shakespeare by looking for the physical things Shakespeare is pushing around. It deals with the completely wrong form of causation.

      “‘mathematics is not science in the relevant sense’
      That sounds like a cop out. Hmm.”

      Whatever it sounds like, it is true. Unless you can show me what part of the natural “is stirred by” mathematics, which will show it to be “testable (and physical)”, then it does not fit your model of what counts as legitimate knowledge.

      Not sure how into the materia you are on this, but there’s still a raging debate if qualia even exists at all
      I’m aware that Hume rejected qualia. The same reasoning led him to reject the existence of objects (like tables and rocks). I don’t think this bodes well for naturalism.

      You are free to argue that qualia don’t exist if you’d like, but all people have a more direct experience with them than we do of any of the facts brought to us by science. That is, they are the most thoroughly evidenced things one can ever hope to have. Anyone who believes in evidence cannot consistently reject qualia.

      But, either way, qualia are not explained by science. And, no, showing us which brain state correlates with them does not count.

      “If the brain can think of it, it involves a state we can scientifically investigate”
      My entire position is that “brains” don’t think. Minds think, and are somehow related to brains. This sentence presumes the position it should be arguing for.

      “The definition of “naturalism” changes when we discover new things.”
      This is the first I’ve ever heard of that.
      But, if one simply wishes to revise the definition to include everything that exists, then it wouldn’t give us any reason to reject the non-physical.

      “What would you call the super-natural if it was discovered and measured by science?”
      I would call that a contradiction.
      The supernatural cannot be discovered or measured by science. That has been my entire point. It is like asking “what would you call matter if it had no weight, solidity, or dimensions and isn’t made out of fundamental particles?”. Well, in that case, I’d say that it isn’t matter.
      If a thing can be studied by science, then either its natural or we’ve drastically altered what science is and does.

      Let me be clear:
      “science will always modify, edit and re-affirm its boundaries and knowledge based on evidence”
      I completely agree, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t any limit whatsoever to its alteration. It does this within a framework. Adjustments are constantly being made, but not to the basic framework of what science is and does.

      This is like saying that art is constantly changing, so we can’t say that art isn’t going to give us a unified theory of physics. Much less should we say that, since art is changing and hasn’t given us a unified theory of physics, one probably doesn’t exist.

      Yes, science changes, but it doesn’t suddenly become not-science. And that is what would have to happen for the metaphysical concepts like the supernatural to be investigated by science.

      In fact, it seemed that we agreed on this point:
      “Your question is nonsensical. Science doesn’t investigate *any* meaning.”
      That is exactly right. Science doesn’t, meaning that any questions of meaning are outside science. And claiming that science hasn’t found any meaning doesn’t mean anything other than that “science doesn’t investigate *any* meaning”.

      That being the case, why on earth would the lack of scientific evidence for meaning tell us anything about what meaning exists?

      Who’s angry? What are they angry about? And what angry atheist doesn’t see this?
      Lots of people. Apparently religion, but they can’t seem to give me specifics. And quite a large number that I’ve encountered; unless I’m a statistical anomaly, that would mean that there are quite a few more.

      In any case, I’m off again, I’ll keep on these as I can.
      Best to you.

      • Alexander

        “Which sciences are these?”

        Methodological naturalism is the tools most often used in science, but science is also all that other stuff they do, from writing reports and papers to thinking and playing. Naturalistic philosophy, for example, is an important part of science not part of the methodologies. Remember that this was in response to your “science is limited to methodological naturalism.” I’m just pointing out that there is more in Science than just methodological naturalism.

        “Those disciplines stick to analyzing objective facts about human beings. None of them study whether or not a particular person or group is “good””

        Hmm. Have you studied much psychology? Or anthropology? Btw, I don’t know why you’ve thrown in whether someone is ‘good’ or not in there. Where did that come from? The issue at hand is whether science also studies the subjective.

        ““if the natural is stirred by the super-natural, that is testable (and physical).”
        Then it is not super-natural.”

        I find this assertion very odd. If your god reaches into this natural world, and does something, anything, surely you’re not suggesting your god hence becomes natural? If Jesus walked on water, was that natural, then? Or was the burning bush a natural thing? Or Moses’ stick to snake demonstration? Surely the suspension of the natural laws (or super-natural addition to it) doesn’t make the miracle natural all of a sudden. I think you need to explain a bit better here.

        ““‘mathematics is not science in the relevant sense’
        That sounds like a cop out. Hmm.”
        Whatever it sounds like, it is true”

        No, hang on; your first response here was to my assertion that science studies non-physical things all the time. People study mathematics, and it’s a science, and it’s a non-physical thing (for the most part). We don’t have to take this any further; I was just pointing out that your broad-brush statement was factually wrong, and I said nothing about the implication of said study on any model of knowledge.

        “You are free to argue that qualia don’t exist if you’d like. […] they are the most thoroughly evidenced things one can ever hope to have”

        That last sentence is close to crazy, unless you define “evidence” in some way I’m not familiar with. 🙂 I was pointing out that qualias’ existence is highly debated still today, and definitely not just by Hume, but by professionals and experts in the field. If you’re going to present qualia as some fact of the brain as part of your argument, you need to first make sure it *is* a fact. In other words, tread lightly, and don’t make bold assertions on shaky ground, because it lessens the impact of your argument. I’m not saying you are wrong in your *argument*, only that “qualia” doesn’t strengthen your argument, and you should maybe find some other “thing of the mind not explainable by naturalism” instead. I’m very happy to hear more about this.

        “Minds think, and are somehow related to brains.”

        Ok, feel free to flesh out what “somehow” means here.

        ““The definition of “naturalism” changes when we discover new things.”
        This is the first I’ve ever heard of that.”

        Really? Because both the definition of the natural and the super-natural world is, by and large, still not agreed upon, or at least have an apples vs. oranges problem with it. The “super-natural” is mostly defined in religious terms, while the “natural” is defined in a more scientific way. For example, it’s easy for you to tell me roughly what we mean when we say “nature”, however I think you’d be hard pressed to tell me roughly what the super-natural is even supposed to be.

        I’ll just also point to https://fidedubitandum.wordpress.com/2013/03/26/the-sugar-coated-nightmare/#comment-548 where I talk a bit more about this. The most common definition of super-natural is when something doesn’t bide the laws of nature as discovered by science, but if science discovers a new law of nature which corresponds with your god, then it ceases to be super-natural. Your god becomes a natural law we until recently didn’t know existed, but now that we recognise it as a natural law, where has your natural/super-natural border gone?

        “Yes, science changes, but it doesn’t suddenly become not-science.”

        That was an odd jump. I think you’re limiting science to something in some way, like where it starts and stops or something, and say that if it goes outside those limits we can no longer call it science? Because there is no real limits to where scientific enquiry can go or where methodological naturalism can’t poke and prod; those “limits” are more or less defined in empiricism, but as explained elsewhere, you need to define your “super-natural” thing in ways that somehow limits the empirical impact of it to declare it so. If there is some means of empirical investigation, then what?

        “any questions of meaning are outside science”

        Kinda agreed, however we still may say “the neutrinos are mutating” (movie ref; can you spot it?) to instigate scientific enquiry. Or, scientists in lieu of being part of science, may look for meaning, however meaning itself is not defined through their findings, of course.

        “That being the case, why on earth would the lack of scientific evidence for meaning tell us anything about what meaning exists?”

        Not sure what you’re getting at here. Have I said something to that effect? Because I would agree with what I think is your premise here (and I would think it also agreed with what I initially have said that meaning is subjective opinions of people, and has no bearing on what naturalism or science even is); meaning is your subjective opinion on data.

        “Who’s angry? What are they angry about? And what angry atheist doesn’t see this?
        Lots of people. Apparently religion, but they can’t seem to give me specifics.”

        Hmm. Can *you* give specifics, though?

    • Debilis

      Methodological naturalism is the tools most often used in science, but science is also all that other stuff they do, from writing reports and papers to thinking and playing.
      None of those things contradict methodological naturalism.
      As soon as a scientist proposes metaphysical entities, such as platonic forms or God, she is not doing science.

      I completely agree that science isn’t only methodological naturalism, but it is always done within the constraints of methodological naturalism.

      Btw, I don’t know why you’ve thrown in whether someone is ‘good’ or not in there. Where did that come from? The issue at hand is whether science also studies the subjective.
      Because “good” is often a subjective evaluation. Science cannot, by definition, make subjective evaluation.

      Yes, science can catalogue and study the subjective reactions of humans, but what it is studying is the objective facts about human reactions. It is not inquiring into those reactions themselves.

      There is a clear distinction here. My best friend happens to be an anthropologist, and spends a great deal of time discussing this distinction with people who don’t seem to understand it.

      If your god reaches into this natural world, and does something, anything, surely you’re not suggesting your god hence becomes natural?
      I am asserting that this would be the case if God “reaches into this natural world”. My position is that God does not do that. There may well be natural effects of metaphysical causes (such as the origin of the universe), but anything which enters into the natural world is natural.

      your first response here was to my assertion that science studies non-physical things all the time. People study mathematics, and it’s a science, and it’s a non-physical thing (for the most part).
      My issue with this is the fact that, elsewhere, you are insisting on empirical evidence. If you are retracting the view that all discoveries of science need to be supported by empirical evidence, then I’ll agree that we can classify mathematics as a science. However, I will immediately insist that the metaphysical arguments leading to the non-physical God in which I believe are equally scientific.

      That is to say that I’m not committed to any definition of science. I simply want consistency in it.

      I was pointing out that qualias’ existence is highly debated still today, and definitely not just by Hume, but by professionals and experts in the field.
      You are right that I should have addressed this.
      My answer, however, is that I disagree with this statements. The rejection of qualia reduces to nonsense, in my view. I’m sure you’ll disagree, but I would need to hear your specific argument regarding that.

      Specifically, rejecting qualia means rejecting the validity of our sensory experience, without which science cannot function.

      Beyond qualia, I would refer to rationality and consciousness as aspects of the mind which lie outside the explanatory scope of naturalism.

      The “super-natural” is mostly defined in religious terms, while the “natural” is defined in a more scientific way.
      I’ve purposely avoided using the term “supernatural”. I don’t think you’ll find it in my writings (if you do, I’ll be happy to rephrase). I’ve been using the term “metaphysical” for just that reason.

      But, I do agree that the concept of the metaphysical is more difficult to grasp than the physical. I’ve always suspected that this is part of the reason why many are inclined to dismiss it.

      Your god becomes a natural law we until recently didn’t know existed, but now that we recognise it as a natural law, where has your natural/super-natural border gone?
      I’ve never argued from a god-of-the-gaps position. Nor has any theistic philosopher (with the famous exception of Paley) I’ve ever encountered.

      I’m not remotely proposing this sort of God, that would indeed be a natural object, and contradict my position.

      That was an odd jump. I think you’re limiting science to something in some way
      Yes, I (or rather the accepted practice of science) limits it to practices consistent with methodological naturalism (among other things). It cannot contradict this approach and still be science.

      those “limits” are more or less defined in empiricism
      This is in complete agreement with my position. Science is limited to the study of the empirical (and an amazing job it does!).

      As such, it does not inquire into anything which is not empirical (such as the metaphysical).

      So, “what is the force that governs planetary orbits” is a question science can approach; “what is the meaning of life” is not.

      Because I would agree with what I think is your premise here (and I would think it also agreed with what I initially have said that meaning is subjective opinions of people, and has no bearing on what naturalism or science even is); meaning is your subjective opinion on data.
      Whether or not this is what meaning is, the point I’m trying to make is that science doesn’t look into meaning. It doesn’t tell us what meaning a thing has, or what meaning itself is.

      So, I thought this would be a good starting point: it is a question that is outside the area of study for science (the empirical). My contention here is very similar: that there are things that go on in the mind which are indeed outside science’s area of study.

      We would need to turn to other fields for that.

      • Alexander

        Hi, I’ll try to be a bit briefer here;

        “I completely agree that science isn’t only methodological naturalism, but it is always done within the constraints of methodological naturalism.”

        No, no, no, these constraints you talk about are not real. Good science, the kind that builds consensus, is built on empiricism we get to through methodological naturalism, but the field is open, your rhetoric is there to be used. Also, Science contains a thing defined as these methods, however you can choose to use it or not; it depends on how serious you wish to be taken.

        So, science isn’t constrained by methodological naturalism, empiricism is.

        “I am asserting that this would be the case if God “reaches into this natural world”. My position is that God does not do that. ”

        Ok, I’m now a bit puzzled. Isn’t your god supposed to reach into the natural world to talk through burning bushes, turn water to wine or blood, healing people who should otherwise be sick (if we did it the natural way), walk on water, perform miracles, turn people to salt, gamble with the devil, fly, turn wood into snake, or – you know – resurrect the dead (many times), and so on? All of these things is the super-natural / metaphysical toeing the line and reaching from that undefined realm into our natural one to change some state in it, I don’t really understand how you can define it differently?

    • Debilis

      Good science, the kind that builds consensus, is built on empiricism we get to through methodological naturalism, but the field is open

      I’m aware that this is your position, and I understand if you think I simply don’t grasp that. I hope I can convince you that I simply disagree on this point.

      The experiment-observation process that is core to science refers to physical experiments and observations with the senses. Because of this, it only accepts empirical evidence.

      On what grounds do you say that science has or can move beyond testing the empirical to testing other proposed areas of reality?

      Under my theology, the incarnation is the only clear movement of God into the natural world. Other things do indeed refer to God causing effects in the natural world.

      The problem is that “reaching in” leads most to think of immediate efficient and material causes. The sense in which God is said to cause things is different from this.

    • Debilis

      To the end that you’ll believe me, I’m not trying to be difficult. I honestly don’t know what answer you’ve put on that thread. I know that you believe that science doesn’t limit its region of inquiry, but I don’t know:
      1. Why you think this, when science has well-defined methods of inquiry (any method will limit the area of inquiry) and
      2. When science has ever tested for the things we are discussing.

      God’s “interference” in the world may well be teleological, rather than efficient. This is a form of cause not investigated by science.

      But, how do you propose that we test scientifically for God?

      • Alexander

        “To the end that you’ll believe me, I’m not trying to be difficult”

        So, difficult without trying, then? 🙂 No, I’m not saying you are being difficult, however you are avoiding the question put forth several times now. If your answer is “I don’t believe in miracle, nor in metaphysical intervention in this world” then that is perfectly fine, then I can’t argue much against that. However, that would be a religion quite distinct from Christianity and heading towards universalism and pantheism, which, again, is perfectly fine.

        “science has well-defined methods of inquiry”

        Science has well defined methods for empiricism and when you want to do good science and create consensus on something, sure. But that’s not the limits of science. That’s the limits of some well-defined methods and tools.

        Here’s an example; in 1903 a young guy who were up to speed on the latest cosmology and physics had an idea, a special idea that took out some assumed givens from the current thinking, and exaggerated the effects of entropy and treated the laws of nature equally against “no reference point in nature”, and to the best of his thinking, this was it! This just felt right! It literary did an inverse of the functional space of current thinking, and I’m not sure I can describe just how crazy this was at the time. And he published his thoughts two years later, but no one paid much attention because the focus was elsewhere and these new ideas were, well, a bit out there. Slowly people took notice, until all of a sudden …

        I shouldn’t need to tell you who this guy was. But here’s the thing. There was no well-defined methodology behind this, nor were there any empirical evidence of it outside of the many other models that also could have been true at the time. However, the last 100 years have given empirical evidence for this theory beyond any shadow of doubt, and is one of mankinds perhaps greatest discoveries, and lead directly to quantum mechanics.

        All of this was based on imagination and math. That’s it. No empiricism at play, limiting the boundaries of scientific discoveries. Do you think you understand quantum mechanics? Do you think anyone back then understood even what was beginning to be quantum mechanics? No, quantum mechanics were so crazy (and to most people still) and so far-fetched and outside of “normal enquiry of science” it might as well not have existed. But there it is, and is true, and utterly important.

        “When science has ever tested for the things we are discussing”

        Depends on what you refer to as “discussing.” In this part of the discussion we’ve been talking about a god reaching into the world and changing it for some reason. Let’s discuss prayer, then, which has been tested and found non-efficient. Let’s talk about statues apparently crying, has been tested, and found to be a leak in a storeroom. Let’s talk about miracle stories which have never been confirmed. Let’s talk about happenings in religious people’s lives outside of what is expected in normal probability ratios, which has been tested, and religious people aren’t abnormally affected. Let’s talk about the status of people of faith, which has been tested, and we’ve found that faithful people are no more or less happy than other groups. Let’s discuss things like religious or spiritual feelings, has been tested, and found to be a specific area in the brain you can stimulate with a magnet to replicate. Let’s talk about cross-religious consensus of truth, has been tested, and all religions thinks they are equally true, they all think they are equally right. Let’s talk about ontological arguments, say, the logical proof for a god, has been tested, and found you can logically prove any mutually exclusive super-natural entity. And on and on.

        Do you mean, say, some philosophical argument? Well, convert it to empiricism, and see if your test data points in any given example, but I still feel you’re avoiding the question a bit, and being rather vague about what these things are.

        “God’s “interference” in the world may well be teleological”

        … by saying things like that. Are you, truly, saying that in your view, there are no miracles, including the purported resurrection?

        “how do you propose that we test scientifically for God?”

        Pray for rain in a given area over a given period, and if it rains there more than what we can expect through normal analytical methods, then you have something to point to.

        Ask for a given miracle to happen, and make sure the miracle you ask for is some distance outside of what we might expect would happen by accident. For example, asking for a miracle where someone will not get the flu on the weekend is silly. Asking for a miracle that some team wins a game is stupid. Asking for a miracle that some team way under wins on overtime after some incredible pass is even not in the books. Ask for a miracle that is truly a miracle, like “turn my car into gold overnight”, or “give me the ability to fly for a day.” If you get granted these miracles, quickly find a scientist who can measure and convert your miracle into empirical data. It’s actually easy to do once you get your miracle. I’m sure you can come up with a thousand tests yourself.

        However, if you indeed are one of those “my god doesn’t interfere with the world at all, ever” types, well the argument changes (not to mention the definition of your religion), and it’s easier to dismiss your claim as fantasy as it has no affect on us, the world and anything we know to be true (ie. its existence is equal to it not existing).

    • Debilis

      For the sake of clarity, I do accept the idea of miracles (apologies–believe it or not, I didn’t realize that this is what you were asking).

      Science’s well-defined methods and tools limit its field of inquiry to things that can be tested via the senses. This definitely makes it more useful for testing the physical than the mental.

      But science always assumes empiricism. While it involves more than running physical tests, as soon as scientists start talking about objects that cannot be physically investigated, they aren’t doing science.

      I completely agree that science has investigated many strange miracle claims, and disconfirmed them. I don’t argue with any of these points.

      But none of this amounts to testing for anything I support. There has not been, and cannot be, a scientific test for God’s existence. This would be to cross the boundaries of science.

      To say that God’s “interference” is teleological is not to say that there are no miracles, but that they do not have the same causal chain that science investigates.

      But simply testing for the efficacy of prayer is not a test for the existence of a transcendent God. This test ignores a great deal of theology; or, rather, assumes a great deal of incorrect theology.

      But, even though I’m not a deist, even if it were established that there is no physical effect of God (which it has not been), this does not equate to “no effect on us”.

      • Alexander

        “Science’s well-defined methods and tools limit its field of inquiry to things that can be tested via the senses”

        What, surely you’re trolling me now? Statements like this makes me believe you’re just attacking some straw-man of an argument or some false belief you have about science, rather than knowing your target. Empiricism – your favourite subject – is defined in observation, not senses, and this is vitally important to understand the difference between. Sorry if that seems harsh, but it is important. If you meant something else, though, my apologies, but we’ve been dancing around the definition of empiricism for some time now, and I still don’t think you quite get what it means.

        “There has not been, and cannot be, a scientific test for God’s existence.”

        That’s because science doesn’t investigate things that don’t affect us.

        “This would be to cross the boundaries of science.”

        No; if your god affects us, science can investigate it. And the stories of the bible says its god affects us, in many ways. Any of these claims can be tested. But, surely, you would agree it odd that the more science we get, the less claims of godly interference it is, or how it shifts from areas of good science (say, the industrialised countries) to areas low in science (poor countries)?

        “To say that God’s “interference” is teleological is not to say that there are no miracles, but that they do not have the same causal chain that science investigates”

        How did Jesus walk on water? He was a man, right? And water was water, right? How did that happen “teleologically”?

        “But simply testing for the efficacy of prayer is not a test for the existence of a transcendent God. This test ignores a great deal of theology; or, rather, assumes a great deal of incorrect theology”

        Indeed; you’ve got theology to lean on here. It’s a little too convenient, I think, and is certainly interesting as theology develops over time to deal with pressing development elsewhere in society. Don’t you find that a bit, hmm, alarming to your faith that the tenants of it – at least those bits which are there to back it up – needs theology to change over time to explain how it still can be possible as evidence against it is mounting? Surely our example of no Adam and Eve puts a different light on both original sin and the concept of Noah (same funnel problem), and how you have to decide that those parts which *has* a dispute with science are the parts we now change our theology to meet? And I mean that as a very serious question; every time bible stories comes into conflict with either new science or new developments in culture, *that’s* when theology changes? Shouldn’t that be alarming if you think your religion has original merit?

        I mean, things like universalism is fine in that the religion is redefined, and old doctrines are ignored in recognition of the human constructs we find, but that’s not what you believe in, I think? If you still uphold miracles, are we allowed to point to specific miracles, like the walking on water one? Does that one still apply? Why that one and not, say, Moses turning his staff into a stick? (Answer: because the latter also demonstrates the power of an alternative god, which according to the doctrine doesn’t exists, therefore *that* store was obviously rhetoric).

        “this does not equate to “no effect on us”.”

        No, of course not. The problem you’re facing with this line of reasoning, though, is that the exact same thing can be said for mental illnesses. I refer you once again back to the many Napoleon’s out there; who’s right, you or one of them? How can anybody – including you and Napoleon and me – tell the difference? How can we tell who’s not just mentally ill?

        (This is not an accusation of you being mentally ill, mind you; it’s a reference point to why “evidence of the mind” is such a worthless argument. How can I tell whether you’re mentally ill or correct in your belief?)

    • Debilis

      First and foremost, I appreciate the thoughtfulness of your comments.

      If you insist on limiting information to that which can be received through the senses, then you are adopting empiricism. This is fundamental to science.

      “There has not been, and cannot be, a scientific test for God’s existence.”
      That’s because science doesn’t investigate things that don’t affect us.

      Given that you seem to be defining “affect us” in a purely physical way, I almost completely agree. This seems to be the direct agreement that means other than science should be used to investigate God’s existence.

      If anything is possible (presumably, this is a lesson of quantum mechanics), and the improbability of any event could be explained with teleology, I don’t see the problem with this sort of explanation.

      Mind you, I’m not convinced it is the correct one, I’m merely wondering how on Earth one would propose to investigate the miracles of Jesus with science.

      I don’t buy into the narrative that theology changes so much as you seem to think. The idea that the Genesis account isn’t meant literally predates Darwin by at least eight centuries. Nor do I think it reasonable at all to assume that the theology of the prayer studies (even the one’s which returned favorable results) makes much sense.

      So, yes, I specifically do adjust my theology based on what I learn in other areas (and vice versa), but this has less to do with theology changing than with me, personally, learning what good theology always taught.

      I refer you once again back to the many Napoleon’s out there; who’s right, you or one of them?
      This is rather like the solipsist claiming that the existence of hallucinations and dreams “proves” that we should distrust our senses.

      That the mind isn’t perfect does not mean it is not a generally reliable source of information.

      *But no offense taken at the example.*

      • Alexander

        “If you insist on limiting information to that which can be received through the senses, then you are adopting empiricism. This is fundamental to science.”

        No, this shows that you have a fundamental misunderstanding of empiricism. It isn’t linked to our senses, but to our perceptions of reality. This is basic Hume and Locke (and heck, you can push Aristotle as an empiricism on a good day, but let’s stick with the originators of the term) where reality is perceived, reality always being a carrot that’s right in front of you but never quite reachable. This is the basic premise for empirical science, and I’m perhaps a bit surprised at this point? Is this a misconception you’ve had all along? I’m happy to go back a few steps and see if we can pick up the conversation if this is the case.

        “means other than science should be used to investigate God’s existence”

        This only makes sense if your god does not affect you in any way, but that’s not the claims of Christians. In fact, Christians purport that their god is very active in this world with tons of effect, all the time, everywhere. I’m not sure what to make of this? You said elsewhere that you approve of miracle claims, so how can you say that your god doesn’t affect us or anything in our world? I’m very confused.

        “I’m merely wondering how on Earth one would propose to investigate the miracles of Jesus with science”

        Well, you can’t as those miracles are long gone, however there are reports coming in every day about some miracle somewhere in the world, and those should be up for grabs.

        “The idea that the Genesis account isn’t meant literally predates Darwin by at least eight centuries”

        What absolute hogwash. You might be able to find one denomination or two that agrees with your statement, but that’s *not* the thrust of most of them. Now, I happen to have Jaroslav Pelican’s excellent history of Christian dogma on my bookshelf (which I’ve read more times than I would like to have 🙂 ), and I’d be very hard pressed to find your claim to be true. So I must ask if you have anything more specific to back it up? Theology and dogma is something I have a special interest in, and would be honestly curious to find that the genesis accounts were thought allegorical or symbolic going back centuries; all other accounts have them quite literal up until the last 100 years or so, and even today there are too many Catholics in the world that would easily refute your claim.

        “So, yes, I specifically do adjust my theology based on what I learn in other areas (and vice versa), but this has less to do with theology changing than with me, personally, learning what good theology always taught.”

        So what you’re saying is that you’re catching up to theology taught hundreds of years ago? Can you give some examples of this theology (and we can make it specific; that genesis isn’t historical) of old that makes these modern claims? For example, can you find any Quinean or Augustian theology that denies the snake as an actual snake? Or say that original sin is defined through anything but a forbidden fruit?

        “This is rather like the solipsist claiming that the existence of hallucinations and dreams “proves” that we should distrust our senses.”

        Actually, it is how your argument comes across; you have these thoughts, and since you feel them to be true, or they’re true “in your head”, they must be true. I’m just pointing out what dreadful criteria for “true” that is.

        “That the mind isn’t perfect does not mean it is not a generally reliable source of information.”

        The mind is a generally reliable source of information? So, you don’t study much psychology or neuroscience, then? I’m not being unduly krass here, but if there’s anything we do know about the mind, is just how incredibly crap it is as a source for information. People make stuff up. They lie. They cheat. They believe in weird things. They see things not there. They hear things not making sounds. They hear voices no one else hears. Just the sheer amount of mental illness in the world (and the numbers are freakin’ massive) should give you good cause to not think the mind reliable in any meaningful way. The mind is, in fact, a *terrible* source of information. That’s why science do *not* trust it. That’s why philosophy based in empiricism might have a life, while mental gymnastics probably slowly will die out. The mind is a dreadful moniker for truth, no matter how much we think we’re so smart and reliable and clever and honest and proper; it has been demonstrated over and over just how bad this mind business is when we have no measure for what is true and good outside of it. And, truly, I shouldn’t even have to be making this point.

    • Debilis

      No, this shows that you have a fundamental misunderstanding of empiricism. It isn’t linked to our senses, but to our perceptions of reality.
      Yes I’ve been using the term by its more casual definition.
      But physical science is not open to all perceptions of reality–only those which are testable through the senses and mathematically ‘modelable’.

      But, if you are using the term ‘science’ broadly enough to include philosophy:
      1. Please let me know, and
      2. Arguments for the mind’s irreducibility would be scientific

      In fact, Christians purport that their god is very active in this world with tons of effect, all the time, everywhere. I’m not sure what to make of this?
      I’d say that God is very active in many ways, but not in ways that would be scientifically measurable.

      First, God is (in my view) maintaining the order of the universe that makes science possible. As science assumes this, it cannot test this idea.

      Second, God is active in the realm of mind, which science tests only under a broad definition of science. We’d have to discuss philosophy of mind for that.

      Third, God is active in the teleology of the universe, which science does not study.

      Fourth, God may or may not be an efficient cause of some events. I suspect so, but, in my view, any Christians claiming that this is something that happens but very rarely are simply wrong.
      You’d have to ask them any questions you have about that; I’ve never understood that position.

      there are reports coming in every day about some miracle somewhere in the world, and those should be up for grabs.
      Agreed, essentially.
      I’d say that most of them can’t be investigated, but I tend to be skeptical of them myself. I think of a miracle as a very rare thing.

      “The idea that the Genesis account isn’t meant literally predates Darwin by at least eight centuries”
      What absolute hogwash. You might be able to find one denomination or two that agrees with your statement, but that’s *not* the thrust of most of them.

      Depending on where you live, this might be the case. But for the world as a whole, it is true.

      Both the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches affirm a metaphorical reading of Genesis 1-3 (that is the bulk of Christians there. Several protestant denominations do as well (such as the Anglicans and the Presbyterians). I really don’t know where you get the idea that they are opposed to it (though I assume many individual Catholics are).

      I know that the fundamentalists are good at making it sound as if they speak for every church, the Bible, and God himself. And I know that there is a very large percentage of Christians (particularly in the United States) that have an issue with evolution, but there really are many who aren’t on board with the young-earth theory.

      But, to give you a specific reference for my claim, I’d point to Origen

      In De Principiis IV, 16, he writes:
      For who that has understanding will suppose that the first, and second, and third day, and the evening and the morning, existed without a sun, and moon, and stars? And that the first day was, as it were, also without a sky? And who is so foolish as to suppose that God, after the manner of a husbandman, planted a paradise in Eden, towards the east, and placed in it a tree of life, visible and palpable, so that one tasting of the fruit by the bodily teeth obtained life? And again, that one was a partaker of good and evil by masticating what was taken from the tree? And if God is said to walk in the paradise in the evening, and Adam to hide himself under a tree, I do not suppose that anyone doubts that these things figuratively indicate certain mysteries, the history having taken place in appearance, and not literally.

      Actually, it is how your argument comes across; you have these thoughts, and since you feel them to be true, or they’re true “in your head”, they must be true. I’m just pointing out what dreadful criteria for “true” that is.
      As I’m not claiming that this shows the content of the thoughts to be true, but merely that these thoughts exist, it seems perfectly reasonable criteria.

      I suspect that there is a miscommunication here.

      I’m not being unduly krass here, but if there’s anything we do know about the mind, is just how incredibly crap it is as a source for information.
      Then we should throw out science, as it depends on the mind.

      Yes, many flaws can be pointed out. As much as we delight in listing them, few have as much patience for listing the things about the mind that actually work. I think the second list would be the longer.

      If it weren’t, there is no reason to trust our reasoning abilities and, therefore, no reason to trust any of our beliefs. So, I’d say that the mind is a source of knowledge, even if an imperfect one.

      • Alexander

        “Both the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches affirm a metaphorical reading of Genesis 1-3”

        No, no, the question isn’t whether someone today does it; that’s fine, we both accept that theology has changed through the centuries. It was your “predates Darwin by at least eight centuries” part I was stalling against.

        “But, to give you a specific reference for my claim, I’d point to Origen” … “I suspect that there is a miscommunication here.”

        Yes, I agree, as I don’t have a problem with given theologies using Genesis in more or less abstract terms, I’m talking about doctrine of the churches; the theology that is main-stream and regarded as “truer Christianity” than those wacky heretics. So, looking back to what you wrote, you do state “the idea” as opposed to what the church says or the believer believes. Because, when you look into for example Origen, then he was controversial to the point of being excommunicated from the church, hardly a good sign that this was a common view.

        “Then we should throw out science, as it depends on the mind”

        Now *that* is nihilism! 🙂

        And, no, science defines frameworks and methodologies *because* the mind is crap and full of bias, not despite it. Science *knows* (as far as we can anthropomorphise an abstract) the mind is unstable and unreliable, but that the sum of consensus is closer to the truth than one mind alone.

        “no reason to trust any of our beliefs”

        Keep going down that track; therein lies, in fact, the core of all Humean knowledge and why Locke and Hume caused empiricism as refined by Popper to the success we see today.

        You asked for reasons to why materialism is true, right? Well, one reason is that based on the assumption that it is, we can outperform other models in pure consequences and technology. At least there is that.

    • Debilis

      Yes, I agree, as I don’t have a problem with given theologies using Genesis in more or less abstract terms, I’m talking about doctrine of the churches; the theology that is main-stream and regarded as “truer Christianity” than those wacky heretics.
      Origen is anything but a “wacky heretic”. Setting aside any controversy contemporary to him, he has been considered a church father since antiquity.

      But I’m not concerned about what churches teach which doctrines. I’m not personally aware of any of them affirming a literal reading of Genesis 1-3 prior to Darwin, but am willing to be corrected if you have information on that.

      Mostly, I don’t see the logical path from “this is main-stream church doctrine” to “Christianity requires this idea”.

      And, no, science defines frameworks and methodologies *because* the mind is crap and full of bias, not despite it.
      Yes, minds are imperfect, but this does not entail that they are completely unreliable.

      And, if minds were completely unreliable, science would be completely unreliable.

      Yes, I’m aware where this track leads, however. But I don’t buy the solution. Rather, I consider it an excellent reductio ad absurdum of many modern assumptions.

      You asked for reasons to why materialism is true, right? Well, one reason is that based on the assumption that it is, we can outperform other models in pure consequences and technology.
      But this is false. Science does this, materialism does not.

      • shelterit

        “Setting aside any controversy contemporary to him”

        What, now? He was excommunicated, he was controversial, and unlike all other “Church fathers” he was never canonized. He was no average Christian nor average theologian by any standard. You are right that he had an idea of non-literal interpretations of Genesis, however going through the material he picks and chooses what that is; it is not a straight-forward all-embracing concept. But claiming Origen as proof that “christians” and “churches” hence have the same theology is just wrong.

        “But I’m not concerned about what churches teach which doctrines.”

        Hmm. Not quite sure about what this signifies. If you proclaim to be a Christian, you need to be concerned about doctrine, otherwise you’re more or less a universalist at best, and something distinct at worst. The concept “Christianity” entails at least a basic framework which, if you venture outside of, you need to revise your label. (Which is fantastic, btw, I think it would be great to have finer categories of what people tentatively lump into this all-embracing category)

        “I don’t see the logical path from “this is main-stream church doctrine” to “Christianity requires this idea”.”

        I find this statement puzzling. The concept of “Christianity” has a basic framework with changes made at the edges of it, and the one thing that all churches in fact *do* agree to, well, that’s more or less that basic framework; Christianity requires a bunch of stuff in order not to be considered heretic. As soon as you are in a heretic position, the label “Christian” no longer fits. I see no problem with this, and don’t quite understand why you protest against “doctrine of the church” as a constraint and definition on what a basic Christian framework of belief is, unless this is one of those silly “Christianity is not a religion, it is my faith” kinda things?

        “if minds were completely unreliable, science would be completely unreliable”

        Right, so you have a rather Cartesian view of the world? Because within that framework there’s no rationality at all, and these kinds of discussions becomes absolutely moot.

        “But this is false. Science does this, materialism does not.”

        You seemed to have replaced criticism of naturalism for criticism of materialism, and think this change has some impact on science? Sure, the two are causally related (if not two sub-things of a super-thing), but your statement which I quote is a bit nonsensical; science (or, methodological naturalism) assumes materialism to be true, so if science “does this” then it logically follows that materialism must at least contain the same properties.

        But we’re evading the question; what reasons are there to reject materialism being true? You keep claiming to have “dealt with that”, but I’m still left unconvinced, and, indeed, puzzled to what evidence you hold towards such a thing. Are we back to a Descartian concept of an ontological argument, in which “conceptual ideas of a certain nature comes from a certain truth”?

    • Debilis

      If you’re simply going to reject Origen outright (though I do not), then I’ll simply switch to Aquinas:

      On the day on which God created the heaven and the earth, He created also every plant of the field, not, indeed, actually, but “before it sprung up in the earth,” that is, potentially.…All things were not distinguished and adorned together, not from a want of power on God’s part, as requiring time in which to work, but that due order might be observed in the instituting of the world.

      Augustine, Calvin, and Wesley could also be mentioned. I don’t know of any reason to think literal interpretation is so universally rejected as you are claiming.

      If you proclaim to be a Christian, you need to be concerned about doctrine
      I agree. I only meant to say that I’m not concerned about which doctrine is officially recognized by a particular church.

      Christianity requires a bunch of stuff in order not to be considered heretic.
      I agree here as well, but I don’t see any reason to think a literal view of Genesis 1-3 is on that list.

      “if minds were completely unreliable, science would be completely unreliable”
      Right, so you have a rather Cartesian view of the world? Because within that framework there’s no rationality at all, and these kinds of discussions becomes absolutely moot.
      Though I don’t take it myself, this was not Descartes’ view.

      It is a contradiction to claim that the mind is completely unreliable and that science is reliable. Thus, the materialist cannot simply dismiss the mind as Rosenberg does.

      And, since there is more to the mind than that which can be reduced to the physical, this is a serious (I’d say deadly) blow to materialism.

      Any criticism that could be raised against other views does not address this point.

      You seemed to have replaced criticism of naturalism for criticism of materialism, and think this change has some impact on science?
      I don’t think anything I’ve said has any impact on science. I’m arguing from science, not against it.

      science (or, methodological naturalism) assumes materialism to be true
      This, again, is false.
      Science doesn’t remotely assume materialism to be true. Methodological Naturalism is, well, methodological. It ignores the non-physical for purposes of investigating the physical; it does not proclaim their non-existence as materialism does.

      The equating of methodological naturalism with materialism is, in my view, a fallacy that underlies almost every support I’ve ever encountered for materialism.

      But we’re evading the question; what reasons are there to reject materialism being true?
      The argument from mind presented in the post here is only one of the reasons I’ve mentioned.

      But this is only one of the two key questions. The other is this:
      What reasons are there to think that materialism is true?

      Materialism, like any other philosophical position, needs to be defended with reason before it can be rationally accepted. Simply insisting that it hasn’t shown to be untrue would be to commit the argumentum ad ignoratium fallacy.

      Are we back to a Descartian concept of an ontological argument, in which “conceptual ideas of a certain nature comes from a certain truth”?
      No, but we are going back to the cartesian point that there is no more reason to trust the senses than the mind, as both ultimately rely on the mind.

      • Mark Hamilton

        Just to thow in my two cents, unlike Debilis I am one of those Christians who does interpret Geneisis 1-3 as recording actual historical events: I’m also (that most mocked of Christians) a Young Earth Creationist. However I agree with Debilis. I don’t think it is neccesary to salvation to believe in a “literal” Genesis account of creation, nor is it neccesary to call oneself a Christian. There are many doctrines that are foundational to the faith, but there are also many where flexibility can be had. As long as we both believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ and that we are saved through his death on the cross then I’d say we are both Christians. As for the rest, well, thats why we have different denominations. But we’re all Christians.

        • Debilis

          I’m finding lately that this is a point of agreement among nearly all Christians. The atheists I’ve encountered have been much harder to convince that we can disagree on some theological points and still consider one another Christian.

          Personally, I find that rather strange.

        • shelterit

          “I don’t think it is neccesary to salvation to believe in a “literal” Genesis account of creation”

          That’s all fine and well, but you need to have some explanation for where original sin came from, no? There needs to be a link between man and when sin entered the world, otherwise there’s no point to Jesus.

        • Debilis

          1.
          I need to have a belief that it happened at some time. But, no, I don’t feel that I need to know exactly how it happened. I’ve already put forth the explanations I consider to be most likely. Since all of them support the basic concept.

          2.
          But, strictly speaking, there is quite a bit of “point to Jesus” regardless of the doctrine of sin. Atonement was not the only point of his existence.

          3.
          I don’t think you’re implying otherwise, but, just in case it is frustrating that I’m not giving a more specific historical answer:

          I’d be happy to discuss theories about historical details. But, so long as the point of discussion is that this is necessary for the truth of Christianity, I’ll continue to focus on the fact that this is not the case.

      • shelterit

        “If you’re simply going to reject Origen outright”

        I’m not; what I’m saying here is that a theologian’s opinions are not the same as general belief. That’s all. Even if Augustine is considered the father of the trinity, there we non-trinitarians before and after Augustine.

        “Augustine, Calvin, and Wesley […]” and other scholars were literate and smart people who postulated in theology, and yes we can trace bits of their opinions back to doctrine, however it does not follow that all of their opinions did. In the end, theology has evolved over time, you’ve already agreed with that, but I still think you would be hard pressed to make the claim that Genesis 1-3 are interpreted allegorically “by most Christians.” Anyway, maybe this isn’t such a huge issue to dwell on.

        “It is a contradiction to claim that the mind is completely unreliable and that science is reliable”

        No one would claim the mind to be *completely* unreliable (after all, I walk out my front door and down the stairs every day, and I’m still alive!), but it most certainly is unreliable in many, many ways. And one of many of these ways the mind is unreliable is “what is true.” We have to commit to at least a shared experience of reality for any philosophy to make sense beyond solipsism, right?

        “since there is more to the mind than that which can be reduced to the physical”

        You haven’t demonstrated nor argued well for this to be true, so I’d be careful making big, swooping statements.

        “Science doesn’t remotely assume materialism to be true”

        You are just so wrong here, but we’ve been going around this thing for too long. I’m letting it go for now.

        “The equating of methodological naturalism with materialism is, in my view, a fallacy”

        I can agree with that, however I doubt people who understand methodological naturalism would use the word “methodological” when talking about naturalism and materialism. I suspect you’re building a straw-man here.

        But besides that, I didn’t equate the two, I said “methodological naturalism assumes materialism to be true” which is a *very* different thing.

        “Materialism, like any other philosophical position, needs to be defended with reason before it can be rationally accepted.”

        First of all, what sort of materialism are you arguing against?

    • Debilis

      Greetings!

      I’m going to move your final question to the front in the hopes that it aids clarity:
      First of all, what sort of materialism are you arguing against?
      I’m arguing against the idea that the physical (i.e. matter and energy existing in the media of space and time) comprises the whole of reality.

      I find this to be a completely unsupported position, for which we have good defeaters.

      [W]hat I’m saying here is that a theologian’s opinions are not the same as general belief.
      I completely agree. My only comment here would be that I’m disinterested in general belief. I don’t think it should have any bearing on my interpretation of Christianity.

      Personally, I’d give more weight to the statements of respected theologians (such as Origen). I don’t take Genesis 1-3 literally; unless it can be established that I should, I don’t see the point in arguing that many (perhaps even most) Christians disagree with me.

      No one would claim the mind to be *completely* unreliable (after all, I walk out my front door and down the stairs every day, and I’m still alive!), but it most certainly is unreliable in many, many ways.
      This is not in dispute.
      My point is that, unless you are arguing that the mind is completely unreliable (which, it seems, you are not), then you have to confront the fact that there is a direct contradiction between a belief that you actually know what doors and stairs are and materialism.

      That was the argument in this post.

      We have to commit to at least a shared experience of reality for any philosophy to make sense beyond solipsism, right?
      I don’t see why.
      One could develop a cogent philosophy without sharing experience.

      In fact, this is true even of science. I can perform an experiment and gain scientific knowledge without sharing that information. One needn’t believe me, I suppose, but that doesn’t make mean that I, personally, lack a good support for my conclusion.

      In the same way, why is it so strange to base philosophical conclusions on trust that one has consciousness? Are you questioning the thought that people have consciousness? If not, what reason do we have to ignore the “unsharable”, let alone conclude that it does not exist?

      “since there is more to the mind than that which can be reduced to the physical”
      You haven’t demonstrated nor argued well for this to be true, so I’d be careful making big, swooping statements.
      If you have an issue with my argument, you need to provide a clear rebuttal. I’ve been given no reason to think that consciousness can be reduced to the physical. Nor have I seen a reason to think that my argument that it cannot be is unsound. The only response has been an insistence that we ignore all “unsharable” information, but this is completely arbitrary–and begs the question in favor of materialism.

      “Science doesn’t remotely assume materialism to be true”
      You are just so wrong here, but we’ve been going around this thing for too long. I’m letting it go for now.
      Feel free to address only the points that interest you. But, I personally am interested. I’d love to see your argument in favor of the idea when you are in the mood for it.

      I can agree with that, however I doubt people who understand methodological naturalism would use the word “methodological” when talking about naturalism and materialism.
      I agree. I’d imagine this is because such people would understand that methodological naturalism (in science, or anywhere else) does nothing at all to support materialism.

      It is those who don’t understand methodological naturalism who are most likely to think that science supports materialism.

      But besides that, I didn’t equate the two, I said “methodological naturalism assumes materialism to be true” which is a *very* different thing.
      Fair enough, but could you give some kind of support for this claim?

      Methodological naturalism doesn’t comment at all on whether or not materialism is true. It completely ignores the question of whether there is more than the physical, and sticks to studying the physical. How does that assume materialism to be true?

  • Mark Hamilton

    “Your question is nonsensical. Science doesn’t investigate *any* meaning.”

    I hate to butt in, however…

    That is exactly his point! That is exactly what he’s been trying to say! Science does not tell us if a cloud is good or bad or has meaning: it only tells us the physical properites of the cloud, that which can be measured, weighed, observed, and tested. If the cloud does have a meaning then we cannot discover it using the scientific method alone. That is what he is trying to say when he says that science does not study the subjective.

    • Alexander

      I’m not sure we share the same reading comprehension, then. “Does science investigate whether or not there is objective meaning outside human opinion?” Does science investigate whether there is meaning outside of something? Or, inside of something else? My answer was simply no, they don’t investigate meaning at all.

      And I don’t agree that he’s telling us that there is no meaning in terms like science and naturalism (read https://fidedubitandum.wordpress.com/2013/03/26/the-sugar-coated-nightmare for longer take on that). I’m the one who’s been trying (often overly so) to separate human opinion, conclusions and interpretation from terms used such as naturalism and science. It’s my pet peeve.

      • Mark Hamilton

        “My answer was simply no, they don’t investigate meaning at all.”

        Exactly, and I believe that is what Debilis has been trying to say. Of course, I don’t want to put words in his mouth. But as far as I understand it he agrees with you completely on that front. Meaning is something that science is not equipped to investigate, and should not be expected to investigate.

        • Alexander

          Then he should jump in and clarify, because I’ve spent quite the number of words in recent times telling him that. Maybe it’s all just a big misunderstanding. 🙂

        • Debilis

          I hope I have clarified, but in case I have not:
          For the record, I made the mistake of using the term “naturalism” in our other discussion without qualification. In that discussion, I was not referring to the methodological naturalism of science, but to the metaphysical naturalism which claims that there literally is nothing other than the physical.

          Here, I used the term science, and do completely agree that there are things it does not investigate. The fact that some insist otherwise is a peeve of mine as well.

  • makagutu

    Friend what is your definition of science?

    • Debilis

      Thus far, I’ve been referring to science as the study of physical reality while adhering to methodological naturalism and relying on the experiment-observation technique in conduction with mathematical modeling.

      But, I’m a firm believer that arguing definitions is pointless. If you have a definition you’d prefer, I’ll be happy to use it. Only keep in mind that I may need to re-state some of my claims as a result.

      • makagutu

        It must be Hume who said we define our terms or something close to that. A statement I think you will agree with unless you are creating a strawman to attack. If this ain’t your intention then I don’t see why you should have a problem with definitions.

        I know you must be aware of The Templeton Foundation. A few years ago or so they sponsored a study to test the power of intercessory prayer. I guess you know the results.

        So as you were trying to claim above, if you make a claim that can be tested, science will test it. I think science only stops testing something for ethical reasons and nothing else unless you could list a few things you think scientists should have studied and didn’t!

    • Debilis

      I agree with the idea that science tests things within the parameters I’ve named, but it should be uncontroversial to say that science does not test for the metaphysical.

      That is, science does not (can cannot) test for the meaning of life, whether or not there is such a thing as a platonic form, moral truth, or God’s existence.

      This is not to say that scientists should have studied them, it is to say that there are areas of study other than science.

  • The Intellectual Poverty of Modern Atheism | Fide Dubitandum

    […] note here is that many of the same problems arise. This idea would force us to reject the idea that we have minds, that our morals are rational, and that our thoughts are either about anything or base their […]

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